How To Avoid Negative Word Of Mouth, Bad Reviews And Poor Publicity For Your Online Store

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It’s rare for my wife to hold a grudge against anyone or anything. So the conversation below took me completely by surprise the other day when she and I decided to do some Christmas shopping online together.

Photo By nffcnnr

Me: Let’s go pick up everyone’s gifts at “The Big Convenient SuperStore” (Not the real name).

Wife: I will never shop at that store again.

Me: Huh? Why not? It’s so convenient and cheap. We can get all of our shopping done at one place.

Wife: I ordered there a few years ago and had a bad experience. Can’t remember the full story but I didn’t get my order on time.

Me: Is that all? Was it their fault?

Wife: No, they shipped it out the same day, but it got lost in the mail.

Me: So what’s the big deal? That’s not the store’s fault. It’s the shipping carrier’s fault. Did you get a refund?

Wife: Yes, but I don’t care. Still never shopping there again.

Me:**Rolling my eyes** Okay whatever.

Wife: What do you mean whatever!?! If you must know, the customer rep I spoke to was rude and condescending.

Me: Ahhh ok…I get it. But it’s a large company and you probably just got someone in a bad mood.

Wife: Doesn’t matter. They should train their employees better. Oh and don’t say “Whatever” to me ever again!

Me: Yes ma’am.

I learned quite a few things from this brief conversation with my wife. Lesson 1, never say “whatever” to your wife. Lesson 2, shopping is often more about the experience than the product or the price. My wife was so furious with this company that she vowed never to shop there again.

But if you look at the situation from an outside perspective, the store didn’t really do anything wrong. One, we received the package late but it wasn’t the store’s fault and two, we got a full refund.

No harm was done and no money was lost. Yet this store managed to lose a customer for life just because of a bad phone conversation. Perhaps the customer rep used the word “whatever”. Who knows?

The Anatomy Of A Bad Review

Later that day, I happened to be reading through some Yelp reviews of restaurants in my area when I noticed some interesting patterns of behavior.

While most of the reviews were thoughtful, written in a neutral tone and provided an unbiased review of the food, every now and then I’d come across an absolutely scathing review that had nothing to do with the food whatsoever. Here’s an example.

The food came quickly. But the servers (they switched between 2) were rather curt. I mean this one guy slammed the plates on our table and didn’t care ask who ordered what.

And what shocked us the most was when my brother hadn’t even finished his appetizer, the waiter took away the plate right from under his nose… and never apologized even when we called him out. This was by far the most awful experience we’ve ever had.

We’re never going back again and wouldn’t recommend you do either. This place deserves a zero but 1’s the lowest you could give out here

Almost every 1 or 2 star Yelp review had similar characteristics. The customer was not upset at the food so much as the service which resulted in the restaurant getting slammed.

The Real Reason Customer Service Matters So Much

I’ve been doing customer service for quite some time now and the situations are almost always the same. When someone calls with a complaint about your business, the actual situation is often quite trivial.

Blah Blah Blah…my order didn’t arrive on time. Blah Blah Blah…you accidentally sent me the wrong thing. Blah Blah Blah, the quality of your product is not good enough.

The strange thing is that as a customer, you rarely remember the financial hit that you took when placing the order. It’s all about the disrespect or the indignity that you faced when speaking with the customer service rep.

When a company representative angers you or treats you with a lack of respect, that tends to override everything else. For example, whoever spoke to my wife must have really said something bad for her to boycott an entire store because no harm was actually done.

A simple “whatever” and a rolling of my eyes inadvertently disrespected her as well, a mistake that will probably come up again in a future altercation. **Sigh**

Key Takeaways

So what have we learned? When a customer takes the time to send you an email or call you on the phone, make sure that the customer never leaves angry. Do what you must do and make things right, especially if it is your fault.

If there’s one piece of wisdom that I’ve gained from dealing with customers, it’s that their emotions are worth way more than any dollar value. If you can deal with a negative situation in a positive fashion, you can almost always turn the customer around.

After all, whenever you are representing your small business, you have to take off your operations hat and don your marketing cap.

Conversations with the customer absolutely matter and even though you might lose a few dollars in the process, it’s worth every penny in terms of mind share because the effects are exponential.

“The Big Convenient SuperStore” lost more than just my wife as a customer that day. I’m no longer allowed to shop there and most likely my kids and her friends will not either. Word travels fast.

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29 thoughts on “How To Avoid Negative Word Of Mouth, Bad Reviews And Poor Publicity For Your Online Store”

    1. I don’t understand. Why would you leave a one-word comment on such a nice blog post like this, and just say “whatever”?

      1. I believe that David was just joking

    2. Steve,

      I hear you buddy. It’s all good :-)

  1. Steve – well done! I just had the most HORRIBLE customer service with a web developer and can’t believe the dialog.

    Rather than try to win my business, he proceeded to apply false motives to what I was saying, and got very rude.

    Then I see this in my email inbox and it’s like Heaven itself opened up: finally, someone who GETS IT.

    Just reading your post totally validated what I’ve been feeling, and the lifetime value of a customer? Never forget.

    1. Thanks for sharing your horror story with your web developer. Customer service is often counter intuitive to human nature especially if no one is at fault. Took me a while to realize that customer support is really marketing in disguise

  2. Charles says:

    This happens to me all the time. It’s not about the money, it’s about the principle. I will not shop at any place who doesn’t respect their customers.

  3. David Howard says:

    It’s good to know that there are companies out there that know how to run a business. I can’t tell you how much I dread having to call customer service and it’s always refreshing to get someone pleasant and caring on the other side of the line. You’re right though. I often forget what I called for but I never forget who I spoke to.

  4. hello,

    I found out about your site through an e-mail that I received from biz sugar. After clicking on your link randomly, I was inspired by the content of this site and your blog. Like yourself, I too was making nothing when I first started out. As I’m no where near accomplishing my goal today online, I’m still moving forward in my positive online business endeavors, without the help of a day job. Job means “just over broke”, and I don’t want to live that way for the rest of my life. I am motivated and inspired by your site and will come back more often to see what new content you have. If there is anything that I can do to help in terms of getting the word out about your site, please let me know how I may be of service in helping you :-)

    always thankful,


  5. Hi, I have a question for you. I can’t figure out how to add your RSS feed to my reader, any suggestions? Thanks in advance

    1. There’s an RSS link at the bottom of every article or you can sign up for my newsletter.

  6. Rick James says:

    I’m forwarding this post to this company that just gave me major attitude about my return. While they may not change their practices, at least if they read the article, they might think about how they treat their customers a little more.

    1. Please keep us posted on the outcome of that. Hope all goes well for you =)

  7. Rob says:


    Please don’t take this the wrong way but I have to say something about this post which I just read. It seems to me that your wife could be an obnoxious yuppie that underpaid working class people really have trouble tolerating.

    I mean think of this, how many people have it so much worse than your wife? Probably 95% of the rest of the world so a little empathy on her part would go a hell of a long way.

    And, you were right to say “Whatever”. She deserved that and your comment may have been an expression of your disapproval of her snootiness and uptight attitude.

    All I can say is I’m glad she’s not my wife. You seem like a very nice guy.

    Best wishes,

    1. Hey Rob
      I wouldn’t read into our dialog too much. My wife is by far the nicest most considerate person that I’ve ever met. We all have our pet peeves and bad customer service just happens to be hers which is probably why our store excels in the service department. While I don’t appreciate your comments about my wife, I reread your message again and I don’t think you meant to be malicious so it’s all good. We all have our opinions but I think it’s wrong to make snap judgements based on a single conversation taken out of context.

  8. Rob,

    why would you say something like that, my friend? Even if it was true, some things don’t need to be said. How would you like it if someone said that to your wife? On the Internet, it’s so easy to say anything we want. It’s like virtually hitting someone and running away, without physically being there. If I were in your shoes, I would always say positive things towards people, despite what anyone is going through.

    Everyone has something in their life that they are dealing with, including myself. And, while this post has nothing to do with me personally, I felt the need to dive right in and add my “humble two cents”, because it was not right for you to refer to his wife as an “obnoxious yuppie”. Rich or poor, a majority of people at time can be quite mentally challenging in tolerating. We all need love and compassion from others and our lives, in order to positively move forward, and stay on the path of moving progressively. Happy new years to you Rob, and wishing you blessings and much prosperity in 2012 :-)

    1. Hey Drewry,

      Thanks for the comment. We bloggers must have a thick skin in order to be so public about what we divulge online. I actually get a ton of trolls on this blog though I don’t consider Rob a troll. So it’s all good but I appreciate you sticking up for me:)

  9. Regina says:

    Hi Steve,

    I came across your blog post when I was looking for some inspiration and information about a good customer service for running my newly open business. Thank you so much for sharing your experience here. I learn a lot from those posts and still a lot to learn too :)

    I have experienced a not so pleasant customer service a couple of times. What you say here is true. At the end, it’s not about the money. I won’t go back to their services just because I’m not comfortable with their customer services.

    Kind regards,

    1. Hi Regina. Thank you for your comment and your kind words. I hope to hear from you again.

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